Open Source Home Automation

Home automation is all about creating a 'smart home'. It includes a wide range of different technologies for adding computer and smart phone control to your home, and for automating tasks to make your life easier and better. Personally I think that the term is a little bit misleading, as it is only partially about automation, and is partly about adding new and high-tech ways to manually control different aspects of your house - such as turning your heating or light on from a phone app rather than a wall switch or thermostat - but home automation seems to be the phrase which everybody knows.

There are loads of different things that you can do with home automation. I've already mentioned a couple of them - adding electronic control to your household electrics and appliances so that you can control them from a computer or smart phone. This is great for things like putting the heating on before you get home, turning down the lighting to watch a movie without getting up, or switching a socket off from your phone rather than putting something like a television on standby mode. You can also add a whole range of sensors to automate control of those appliance under certain conditions. For example, a combination of light sensor and presence detector can automatically turn the lights on in a room when it is past dusk and somebody walks in, and automatically turn them off when the room is unoccupied. The most advanced systems boast artificial intelligence programs capable of learning what you like and anticipating your needs, so it can automatically prepare everything for you just how you like it and just when you need it.

In the past home automation systems were very complex and expensive, and required an expert designer and installer to set up. You would also have to buy any new features or products from the same company or brand if you wanted to expand your system or replace ageing products, as the various different systems would not work with each other. Today, as the technology has progressed, there has been a huge growth in the number of DIY friendly and open source home automation systems which are cheaper, more flexible, and do not require a qualified professional to install.

Here is a list of some of the most popular and successful open source home entertainment projects:

Open Source Automation

Open Source Automation is a fairly new but very exciting project to create a universal open source home automation controller. The software can be downloaded and installed on a device of your choosing, and can be used to control products from a wide range of manufacturers and over a range of different wireless communication protocols. This means that if you have existing devices from Insteon or X10, or 1-wire, or which uses Bluetooth, you can program and control them using the Open Source Automation software. The software itself has been developed in a modular fashion, with various plug-ins that you can easily add to customize the features and functions of your controller.

Open Remote

Open remote is a somewhat more 'grown up' version of the same idea being implemented by Open Source Automation. The system is more fully developed and supports a wider range of different protocols, including (but not limited to) AMX, KNX, Lutron, Z-Wave, 1-Wire, EnOcean, xPL, Insteon, X10, XBMC, FreeBox, and MythTV. It also has more sleek and fully developed set of control interfaces, including apps for both Androind and iOS. The software itself, however, is less explicitly modular, less collaborative, and aimed a little bit more at professional installers rather than DIYers, meaning that some people may find it more difficult and less fun to work with.


The Freedomotic project is at the opposite end of the spectrum to Open Remote. Whilst it is less sleek in its presentation, it is more fully aimed at hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts, and more solid in its commitment to the ideals of open source. In addition to integrating protocols popular amongst professional building automation installers such as KNX, the Freedomotic project aims to provide the best tools for electronics hobbyists building their home automation systems from the ground up with open source hardware based around microcontrollers like Arduino. It also features a thriving marketplace for plug-ins and a supportive community for anybody wanting to develop their own plug-ins.

Ago Control

Ago Control is a less fully developed version of Freedomotic - a project based around collaboration and open source ideals which aims to support a wide range of different hardware, including low power microcontrollers. The reason I've included it here too is because whilst the Freedomotic community seems to favour Arduino boards, Ago Control seems to specialize more in Raspberry Pi based projects.


If you are a programmer with plenty of experience using Linux then you may like to take a look at DomotiGa, a home automation software project based on Linux. DomotiGa is not very accessible to non-programmers with only limited experience using Linux such as myself, so I can't really say much more about the project other than that it seems to have active development going on for a reasonable range of different hardware products.

Open Z-Wave

Z-wave is a wireless communications protocol, and one of the most DIY friendly home automation systems. There are tonnes of different Z-wave products out there, and a great community of users and tinkerers. Open Z-Wave is not actually an open source product itself, but rather a library of open source tools for Z-Wave development. Anybody interested in open source development using Z-Wave may also like to check out Razberry - a Raspberry Pi daughter card which provides the easiest route to using your RPi as a home automation controller, and which includes some great free code samples for building your own user interface app.

Categories: Home Improvement | Open Source

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